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Thoughts on Two Days Spent at Pixar Headquarters Previewing ‘Elemental’


Two months ago, I was invited to Pixar and their headquarters for a preview of Elemental. I wrote a bit about that preview here, giving a taste of what the film is shaping up to be. Today, however, I’m going to continue whetting your appetite for their movie by talking more about the experience of being on campus at Pixar HQ.

For starters, this is some of what I said back in my prior Elemental / Pixar piece:

Yesterday, the trailer dropped for Pixar’s latest animated offering, Elemental. If you didn’t see it then, definitely check it out here now. However, for the past two days prior, I was on a somewhat secret trio to Pixar Headquarters, to get a more in-depth look at the film. As a bonus, we were also shown the short Carl’s Date, which will be attached to Elemental. I’ll have a piece closer to the summer on my time at Pixar, but today, I wanted to talk about the movie’s footage, which I found to be highly impressive.

Elemental is, at its core, about two things. One is the sacrifices that parents make for their children so that they can have a better life. We saw some of that in the presentation, as well as explicitly told so by director Peter Sohn. The other is about coming together in spite of differences. Opposites can attract, our differences make us special, and love can bloom in that kind of situation. It all builds to suggest Pixar has made a romantic comedy, and a potentially great one at that.

What I saw was goddamn adorable. Not only did it look gorgeous, but it was highly amusing as well. Leah Lewis‘ Ember Lumen and Mamoudou Athie‘s Wade Ripple are immediately lovable, which is absolutely essential for this flick to work. There’s an undercurrent of acceptance of different types of individuals that never seems to suffocate the rom-com, but it does add something to a bit of animated fare that could almost seem simple by Pixar standards. Seeing them in action is not just visually stunning, but it’s utterly charming as well.

First arriving at Pixar is a bit of a fun experience all its own. As you can see in the main image for this piece, there’s a big welcoming entrance. Getting inside, you see a wide open campus with multiple buildings and outdoor spaces. It’s really pretty, very elegant, and looks like a place where you both can get a lot of work done and also manage not to burn out. A pretty solid deal, if you ask me.

The campus also features plenty of Pixar touches, both inside and out. Whether it’s the iconic objects from their logo outside a building, or various characters from their films inside, you’re always clear where you are. It’s very warm, just like you’d hope for a place that has made such iconically emotional moments in cinema, let alone in animation.

We were shown initially shown the Elemental footage on night one, as I detailed above. They were basically guided by filmmaker Peter Sohn, really setting up what his movie is trying to do. It really did get you more interested in the film, beyond just its interesting premise. Plus, as he explained it all, it was impossible not to be taken by the look of it all. It really is a gorgeous looking flick.


After the clips were several presentations on day two, really getting into just how hard Elemental was to craft. As someone without any artistic bones in his body (proven later when some Pixar folk attempted to guide me through drawing the protagonists of Elemental), I was in awe of what Sohn and company were up to. Simple things, like making sure that Ember was fire, not on fire, or that Wade was water, not wet, were key. Of course, doing that on a computer basically meant inventing how to do it. I was blown away by the technical aspect of ti all.

Walking around their main building, I got to see some of the early art work for Elemental, as well as ran into Bob Peterson (we’d also been shown his short Carl’s Date as a surprise, and folks, you’re not ready for that one). There was a real feeling that you were at home and welcome, fueled by how proud they all are of their work. Being able to host some writers to display their baby was a moment of pride, as opposed to a hassle, and it was a palpable feeling throughout the two days spent on campus.

All in all, Pixar is not just a wonderful place to be, it’s a place where clearly passionate work is being done. What I saw of Elemental was great. What I saw of the work environment was just as compelling. Making animation is about as far a cry from my skillset as possible, but these talented folks really do know how to craft emotion and entertainment out of thin air. Next month, when Elemental opens, you’ll see what they’ve been up to…

Advance tickets for Elemental are on sale now!


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Written by Joey Magidson

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